Teaching English when ESL classes are not available

Be they government assisted or privately sponsored refugees, they have 12 months to become self-sufficient. For many refugees, the biggest hurdle to becoming self-sufficient is learning English. The problem is ESL classes are backed up and must be booked months in advance (Update: The situation may not be so dismal. See Millions worth of free English classes for Syrian refugees going unused).

Phyllis Fatt, a member of St. Michael’s Anglican Church. She used the following tips/tricks to help the mother of a refugee family learn English. She provided the ESL exercises in the family’s home because it worked best for the mom. Phyllis reports that the mom found these exercises in her home very helpful, and gave her a start. They helped prepare her so she felt more confident when she finally was able to attend official ESL classes.

This is what Phyllis did, in her own words:

When I first started I introduced myself saying:

My name is……..

And, your name is …….

I talked a lot about money and took money samples with me, coin as well as bills. For example, $1, 5c., 10c., 25c., and how they make up a dollar. While doing this, we counted in English.

I used grocery ads with pictures illustrating what you buy for how much money and let them figure out the costs.

I had a book called “Market Math” which I bought at the teacher’s store on Douglas St.

I used flash cards saying the words and getting them to respond, also learning A, B, C…

Some days I took toy dishes and pots, illustrating setting a table, e.g. I am setting the table, You are setting the table, and We are setting the table, etc.

I went to the library and got kindergarten books with pictures to read together.

I would make up a story. One sentence lines, e.g. Today the weather is good. They would copy this and I would correct it on the next visit. (i.e. their homework)

I had a calendar, and took it each time I went. Then I could indicate when I would come again.

Tried to explain the make-up of Canada, the provinces, etc. Need to take a map.

I did not do all of the above each time I went. I gradually felt my way along.

Occasionally, I would take a fruit or something seasonal, perhaps a vegetable, and we would talk about it.

I think you have to figure out where there interest lies and work from there.